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The faxing process is fairly straightforward: a fax machine scans each outgoing page and converts the images into a series of light and dark dots. This pattern is then translated into audio tones and sent over regular phone lines. The receiving fax machine "hears" the tones, pieces the grid together, and prints the total compilation of dots to produce black and white copies of the original pages. Color faxing is also possible, but fairly rare. While a standard for color faxing has been adopted, many manufacturers don't use it yet. The only reliable way to fax in color right now is to fax between two color fax machines from the same manufacturer. In coming years, the standards should settle down and both laser and inkjet color fax machines should become available.

The two main types of modern fax machines - inkjet fax machiens and laser fax machines - print on plain paper instead of the thermal paper used by older models, making curled, waxy, hard-to-read and quick-to-fade scraps of faxes a thing of the past. Fax machine prices vary quite a bit. At the low end, you can find thermal transfer fax machines and inkjet fax machines suitable for home offices. True business-grade fax machines can better withstand the daily stress many businesses put on their fax machines and make a better choice for businesses that depend on fax machines for important documents.


Inkjet fax machines: Inkjet fax machines produce relatively crisp text at a low cost and make a good choice if you receive less than 30 faxes daily. For heavier usage requirements and faster print speeds, consider a laser fax machine instead.

Laser fax machines: Heavy-duty fax machines use a laser or light emitting diode (LED) printing engine, the same basic technology as laser printers. These laser fax machines use toner to quickly produce high-quality images on plain paper. Laser/LED printing is quite reliable, with few service needs beyond toner and paper. Be aware, though, that laser fax machines typically cost more than thermal transfer fax machines and inkjet fax machines.

Thermal transfer fax machines: In order to print, thermal transfer technology uses heat to transfer ink from a ribbon onto a page of plain paper. Thermal transfer fax machines are fairly reliable, inexpensive, and more common in the home-office market than true business fax machines. They can have a number of drawbacks, including mediocre print quality and noisy operation.


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